As businesses closed, people were forced to stay at home, and over 20 million Americans claimed unemployment, the stress of quarantine took its toll over the past year. The resulting mental health impacts, including a rising number of individuals facing anxiety and depression, have resulted in a renewed focus on innovative avenues for mental health treatment.
In 2019, around 19% of adults in the United States were receiving some type of mental health treatment. For some, this looked like weekly therapy sessions, while others took more in-depth approaches to navigate their mental health. While telehealth services have been around for quite a few years, the vast majority of patients would seek professional help in person.
Once the coronavirus came to the U.S. and the population began isolating for their physical health, their mental well-being took a hit. Depression, social anxiety, stress, and health anxiety began to affect more and more individuals. Many states shut down and only allowed people to leave their homes for essential trips to the grocery store or work if they were still employed. This is when telehealth became more popular than it has ever been.
Online platforms such as Amwell, BetterHelp, Ginger, and Teladoc offer mental health appointments to patients from the comfort of their own home. One of the most convenient aspects of online service is that there are multiple options for communication. Telehealth platforms usually offer a combination of video calling, instant chat, messaging, and phone calls.
Medical professionals from Ginger reported that overnight conversations with patients increased by 20% due to the stress brought on by the pandemic. Big Health also noted that in September, anxiety levels began to rise as some children started going back to school and an impending election was on the horizon, making access to these services even more crucial.
But more than just convenience, these new ways of communicating about mental health opened the door for individuals who may have otherwise been apprehensive to seek in-person care. Amwell reported that over 60% of patients would rather schedule a virtual visit for their mental health than an in-person visit. Experts were also surprised to find an increase in male users over the age of 65 that normally wouldn’t seek mental health support.
While the negative impacts on mental health over the past year have been challenging at best, telehealth has proved to be an equalizing force. By making mental health care more accessible, not only has it made these services more convenient, it has also allowed mental health professionals to reach traditionally underserved demographics in this area and open people’s minds to what it means to seek mental health treatment.